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Lost & Found: America’s Black Classical Music

(Photo: G.James)
(Photo: G.James)

A special program for holidays is our latest collaboration with Washington, D.C.’s PostClassical Ensemble.

It includes highlights of a recent concert hosted by 1A host Jenn White at All Souls Church in the district.

It was the curtain-raiser for a season-long project that explores the roots of America’s Black classical music. You are invited on a journey of rediscovery — from the sorrow songs to the spiritual arrangements of composer Harry Burleigh and the musical prophecies of Antonin Dvorak.

PCE Executive Director Joseph Horowitz has previously acted as our guide as we explored the relevance of composers Antonin Dvorak and Aaron Copland to America’s cultural story.

The centerpiece this time is William Levi Dawson’s “Negro Folk Symphony.” Horowitz says “it is one of the most formidable, most stirring and uplifting symphonies in the American symphonic repertoire.” So why after its 1934 premiere did it sink into oblivion?

Highlights are courtesy of PostClassical Ensemble as part of its partnership with Howard University and the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts. Performances also showcased other leading Black composers. They include Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, with readings from W. E. B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.

This is a “More than Music” production, scripted and edited by Joseph Horowitz. The technical producer was Peter Bogdanoff.

Music was used with the permission of Naxos. The film “The Souls of Black Folk,” will be released by Naxos in January of next year.

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